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Shepherding Public Art: The 2011 Public Art Network Year in Review

Public art sheep takes a coffee break (Photo by Jed Berk)

You’re walking to your morning coffee shop passing by the regulars sitting at outdoor tables reading and sipping coffee. But wait, something is different. A guy is seated at a table with a sheep. Not a live sheep, but a white fluffy sculptural object placed on the chair next to him. Huh?

Ahhh…the beauty, surprise, and often, humor of temporary public art in spaces where one wouldn’t normally encounter art.

Who was behind this sheep ‘spotting’ moment? The City of San Jose Public Art program – the 2011 Public Art Network Year in Review Program of the Year!

A Champion Flock of Weed Eaters created by artist Jed Berk was reported and digitally recorded  being spotted around the city of San Jose. A temporary public art project for the San Fernando light rail corridor, it was a partnership between the city and the 01SJ Biennial.

Weed Eaters was an anchor artwork on the front lawn of the Diridon Station where a makeshift ‘barn’ housed the flock of sheep and their ewe, a four foot tall ‘Mother Sheep’ complete with an internal computer sculpturally placed in her ‘belly’.

At scheduled times, a ‘shepherd’ (neighborhood volunteer) took the sheep out of the barn to ‘graze’ the lawn and the public was invited to borrow a sheep to graze (visit) elsewhere throughout the city. Guest ‘shepherders’ documented their sheep grazing at coffee shops, classrooms, community swimming pools, etc., and emailed photographs back to the ‘Mother Sheep.’ Photos were shared online with other ‘sheepherders’ and general public creating an interactive community engagement project.

A Champion Flock of Weed Eaters (Photo by Jed Berk)

San Jose’s public art program dates back to 1984 and is embedded on a foundation of successful permanent as well as temporary artworks. As the gateway to Silicon Valley, San Jose’s recent airport expansion recently unveiled an impressive new collection of works that were collectively recognized in the 2011 Year in Review including: eCLoud by Nik Hafermaas, Dan Goods, and Aaron Koblem; Dreaming Fids by Shona Kitchen and Ben Hooker; Space Observer by Bjorn Schulke; and Hands by Christian Moeller. The San Jose program was recognized in the 2011 Year in Review for Visionary Leadership by curators Gail Goldman, Kendal Henry, and Richard Turner, who reviewed 430 submissions and selected 47 finalists.

The 2011 Public Art Network Year in Review Project List is available online and Goldman and Henry’s presentation of the projects at the Public Art Preconference on June 16, 2011, in San Diego is available through our Convention On-Demand package. The package includes high-resolution images of all 47 selected projects, as well as the project data and category descriptions of the jurors’ selections.

The Convention On-Demand package also offers the Public Art Preconference Keynote presentation by Erika Doss, author of Memorial Mania. (Extra plug: be sure to check out Closing Keynote Presenter, Ben Cameron.)

Attention public art ‘sheepherders’, please email photos of random public artworks you come upon in your community. Drop us an email and photo of the work, where you saw the work and we’ll share the projects in future Americans for the Arts publications or here on ARTSblog.

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